I was very lucky growing up.
My mom and her family were very open with their mental health issues. My mom constantly explained why she had to wash her hands ten times before finally being able to leave the washroom. My aunt spoke openly about her fears of being sick, and when she had children, of them getting sick. My nan was the first to sit down and discuss holistic approaches to feeling better, while also supporting the needs of my mom and her siblings when they decided to go on medication.
But not everyone has a family like mine.
When I first started becoming an influencer on social media I quickly became an advocate for mental health. I spoke openly about what I was going through, and I often described my bad days. But after a while I started to feel redundant. I started to feel like the whole mental health advocate approach was saturated. Over time I began to back off from speaking about my mental health because I felt like my followers were getting enough information from people who had more of an influence than me. Over time I barely discussed what I was going through.
Then I made the decision to go off of my medication.
I would first like to say.. that my decision was best for ME, but is not necessarily the best approach for you and your body. I did, however, decide to document it. I decided to share my journey because I was proud of the decision I had made and the tenacity it took to go through weening off process.
As I continued to share, something amazing happened, more and more people (mostly women) began to reach out and say how they had been thinking about doing the same thing, or how my journey inspired them to take the necessary steps to better their mental health, whether that be going off medications or going on them. I realized then that the field was not saturated. I saw a lot of people speaking about mental health because those were the people who I was associating myself with, but not a lot of people had that. I realized then and there, more attention needed to be brought to help the people who are suffering.
I began to post about my mental health again, and not only that I began to reach out to people who may not have the knowledge and share with them my experience. One woman, in particular, really caught my eye. She is actually a part of the same social media influencer team as I am. She had been suffering for a few weeks when it came to sleeping and she was even experiencing some pain that she had never had before. She couldn’t sleep at night, but then during the day all she wanted to do was stay in bed. When she wrote a post about it, I immediately knew that she was showing symptoms of depression. So I reached out. She admitted to me, after taking a few hours to respond, that her initial response was to become defensive. She couldn’t understand, initially, how someone who was living her dream life, someone who everyone saw as happy, and someone who was not sad all the time could be having a depressive episode. But when she took a step back, she realized I could be right. It was hard for her to see that right away because her episode had manifested in physical symptoms rather than mental. She came in with an open mind and was actually able to get up the courage to ask her doctor about it.
That, to me, was so powerful.
It further confirmed that there is still a stigma around mental health. People are still reluctant to share, or even consider that they may be suffering simply because they don’t have it “that” bad, or others have it “worse”. That needs to change. No one is embarrassed to admit that their arm is broken when they break their arm, so why are we embarrassed to say we have depression or anxiety? No one with diabetes is afraid to share their sugar levels, so why are people afraid to share their serotonin levels?
This whole post was triggered by another leader’s post in my team last night. She was saying she just wanted to pretend this whole season of her life, the one where she is experiencing some mental health issues, doesn’t exist. She feels like she cannot show up on her social media account because she doesn’t want to share her journey in fear of being judged. This post made me so sad. So sad to think that even people who see me sharing my truth all the time are afraid to share theirs in fear of being judged. This further confirmed the need for more people to share their journey.
The stigma needs to end.
The world can change, if we put in the effort to do so. So please, if you are suffering, reach out for help. Show others that it is okay to not feel okay.
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